Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Mock NBA expansion draft: Celtics, Nets, Knicks, 76ers, Raptors

Mock NBA expansion draft

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MARCH 01: Gordon Hayward #20 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the first quarter against the Washington Wizards at TD Garden on March 01, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Getty Images

The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division. Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Atlantic:

Boston Celtics

Protected – 8

  • Kemba Walker - $34,379,100
  • Jaylen Brown - $23,883,928
  • Marcus Smart - $13,446,428
  • Jayson Tatum - $9,897,120
  • Daniel Theis - $5,000,000 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Romeo Langford - $3,631,200
  • Grant Williams - $2,498,760
  • Robert Williams III - $2,029,920

Unprotected – 7

  • Gordon Hayward - $34,187,085 (Player Option)
  • Enes Kanter - $5,005,350 (Player Option)
  • Vincent Poirier - $2,619,207
  • Semi Ojeleye - $1,752,950 (Team Option, Non-Guaranteed)
  • Carsen Edwards - $1,517,981
  • Javonte Green - $1,517,981 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Brad Wanamaker – Restricted Free Agent

Ineligible – 0

Analysis: Boston’s decisions are fairly cut and dry. Jayson Tatum, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams and Robert Williams are all on their rookie-scale contracts. Jaylen Brown will be starting a four-year contract extension. Kemba Walker was just signed to a max contract. Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are good values and key rotation players.

The toughest decision was on Gordon Hayward. Carrying a salary over $34 million, the Celtics are betting he’ll go undrafted and will return to the team. Everyone else was a fairly easy decision to leave unprotected.

Brooklyn Nets

Protected – 8

  • Kevin Durant - $40,108,950
  • Kyrie Irving - $33,329,100
  • Caris LeVert - $16,203,704
  • Spencer Dinwiddie - $11,454,048
  • Jarrett Allen - $3,909,902
  • Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot - $1,824,003 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Rodions Kurucs - $1,780,152
  • Nicolas Claxton - $1,517,981

Unprotected – 5

  • Taurean Prince - $12,250,000
  • DeAndre Jordan - $10,375,678
  • Garrett Temple - $5,005,350 (Team Option)
  • Dzanan Musa - $2,002,800
  • Theo Pinson - $1,701,593 (Team Option)

Ineligible – 2

  • Wilson Chandler
  • Joe Harris

Analysis: The Nets are keeping their big four in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. Jarrett Allen is still on his rookie-scale contract, so that’s an easy decision. With over $101 million on the books for just Durant, Irving, Dinwiddie and LeVert, Nicolas Claxton and Rodions Kurucs help bring some low-cost upside to the back-end of the roster.

DeAndre Jordan will likely go unselected, given his age and $30 million-plus owed through 2022-23. If Jordan is selected, Brooklyn can bank some potential luxury tax savings down the line. Taurean Prince was on the fence, but given his disappointing play this season, and lack of fit in a lineup featuring Durant, the Nets will take their chances he’ll be selected.

New York Knicks

Protected – 8

  • Julius Randle - $18,900,000
  • R.J. Barrett - $8,231,760
  • Frank Ntilikina - $6,176,578
  • Kevin Knox - $4,588,680
  • Mitchell Robinson - $1,663,861 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Ignas Brazdeikis - $1,517,981
  • Damyean Dotson – Restricted Free Agent
  • Allonzo Trier – Restricted Free Agent

Unprotected – 6

  • Bobby Portis - $15,750,000 (Team Option)
  • Taj Gibson - $9,450,000 ($1 Million Guaranteed)
  • Wayne Ellington - $8,000,000 ($1 Million Guaranteed)
  • Elfrid Payton - $8,000,000 ($1 Million Guaranteed)
  • Dennis Smith Jr. - $5,686,677
  • Reggie Bullock - $4,200,000 ($1 Million Guaranteed)

Ineligible – 1

  • Maurice Harkless

Analysis: The Knicks are clearing the decks for a run at free agency this summer. The expansion draft could only help along that way. New York is protecting their young players with upside, as well as Julius Randle, last year’s big free agent addition. The Knicks are also protecting Damyean Dotson and Allonzo Trier. Not out of fear of losing them, but in hopes that either of the expansion teams will select a bigger salary and take it off the New York cap sheet.

Dennis Smith Jr. was the only questionable player to leave unprotected, but $5.7 million is simply too much for a player out of the rotation. The other five players aren’t part of the future in New York, so that decision was easy.

Philadelphia 76ers

Protected – 8

  • Tobias Harris - $34,358,850
  • Joel Embiid - $29,542,010
  • Ben Simmons - $28,750,000
  • Josh Richardson - $10,865,952
  • Zhaire Smith - $3,204,600
  • Matisse Thybulle – $2,711,280
  • Furkan Korkmaz – $1,762,796 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Shake Milton - $1,701,593

Unprotected – 3

  • Al Horford - $27,500,000
  • Mike Scott - $5,005,350
  • Norvel Pelle - $1,517,981 (Non-Guaranteed)

Ineligible – 4

  • Alec Burks
  • Raul Neto
  • Kyle O’Quinn
  • Glenn Robinson III

Analysis: Philadelphia’s decisions make themselves. The highly paid players are key rotation players. Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton are steals on minimum contracts. Matisse Thybulle is only entering year two of his rookie scale deal. Zhaire Smith was on the bubble, but he’s young enough, and under team control, that he’s worth protecting.

Al Horford is very unprotected. His signing simply hasn’t worked out for the Sixers. He’s a player Philadelphia is open to talking about a trade with either of the expansion teams. With an extra first-round pick, the 76ers hope to dangle it to entice a team to select Horford.

Toronto Raptors

Protected – 8

  • Kyle Lowry - $30,500,000
  • Pascal Siakam - $28,750,000
  • Norman Powell - $10,865,952
  • Patrick McCaw - $4,000,000
  • OG Anunoby - $3,872,215
  • Terence Davis – $1,517,981 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Matt Thomas – $1,517,981 ($725,000 Guaranteed)
  • Chris Boucher – Restricted Free Agent

Unprotected – 3

  • Stanley Johnson - $3,804,150 (Player Option)
  • Dewan Hernandez - $1,517,981 (Non-Guaranteed)
  • Malcolm Miller – Restricted Free Agent

Ineligible – 4

  • Marc Gasol
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
  • Serge Ibaka
  • Fred VanVleet

Analysis: The Raptors don’t have to expose any of their core rotation players in the expansion draft. Up front, Pascal Siakam just inked his contract extension, and OG Anunoby is still on his rookie scale deal. Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are all free agents. In the backcourt, Toronto can protect Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell, along with undrafted find Terence Davis. And Fred VanVleet is a free agent.

The leaves just a handful of players who don’t have a role for the Raptors. Toronto could even entertain offering a second-round pick to entice either expansion team to select Stanley Johnson and take his $3.8 million off the cap/tax.